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How To Secure An Actuarial Internship

In this blog, Bethan Goddard, a Trainee Consultant at Barnett Waddingham, takes us through her experience of securing an actuarial internship, with some helpful tips along the way. 

When I first set out on my quest to secure an actuarial internship, I did not have much of an idea about what kind of firm I wanted to work for or which actuarial practice area I would like to work in. However, after endless amounts of research and reading up on various firms, I had a clearer idea of what I wanted. I began my research by looking at the actuarial internships on offer for the upcoming summer on websites such as RateMyPlacement and InsideCareers. These websites offer a great overview of the internships each firm offers, their office locations, deadlines, and much more. Using these websites, I compiled a list of a number of firms I was interested in and began to apply!

It was important at this stage to keep an open mind. I expected to apply to more than one firm. I must have applied to at least six firms and unfortunately, I received some rejections almost immediately after I pressed the “Submit” button. Rejection must be expected and should not be received too harshly, but instead used as motivation to apply to the next firm.

In terms of the actual application process, this varies from firm to firm. All required basic details about myself and my academic history. Following this, most firms tend to ask skills-based questions, such as “tell us about a time when you have shown initiative and gone beyond what was required for a particular situation”. These normally incur a word limit, meaning it is essential to be precise and straight to the point. With these types of questions, firms are looking for an explanation of the situation in question but also clarity as to which skills were demonstrated throughout. From this, they should be able to see transferable skills that are applicable to the actuarial profession, however examples do not need to be actuarial or even employment related; examples from University are great! Other questions might concern reasons for applying to that particular firm; it is imperative to have researched that firm and demonstrate a passion to work there. Above all, this section of the application should not be rushed and should not be simply copied and pasted from one application to another.

Following this, verbal and numerical reasoning testing is highly likely. There is ample opportunity and online resources to practise these before completing them for the application. I would highly recommend this as it is essential to become accustomed to their structure and time limits in order to have the best opportunity of success.

The next stage was a phone interview. Again, this needs plenty of preparation so there is more time to ‘sell yourself’ to the interviewer, rather than spending time hesitating and thinking. Questions included more skills-based questions, questions surrounding my interest in the actuarial profession and questions about me in general. It is best to think of every possible question that could be asked, bullet-point some answers and use a friend or family member as a test before the real thing.

Then, it is time for the final stage: the assessment day. This involves travelling to the office for a fun-filled day of being assessed, as well as an opportunity for the firm to provide more insight into life as one of their employees. This day consisted of an interview, involving competency-based questions and reasons for wanting to be an actuary. There were also more verbal and numerical reasoning tests. Beforehand, I had to prepare a ten-minute presentation on a topic of my choice. The topic was irrelevant; it was the presentation skills, ability to explain something in a simple manner to non-experts, and capability to answer questions that was important. Prior to the day, I was sent a case study that I had to prepare to discuss during the interview. This enables the assessors to gauge the current knowledge of applicants, but also ability to withdraw the important information. Finally, the day finished with a group exercise, giving the assessors an opportunity to see how the group worked together and which applicants stood out for the right reasons.

Hopefully, having succeeded at all stages above, an internship will have been secured. As mentioned earlier, application processes vary depending on the firm, but there will be aspects applicable to all. Despite the many stages of the application and amount of time each application takes, it is all worth it for that acceptance phone call. Good luck!